New York’s New Plaza Cinema had another interesting webinar about Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY, with regular contributors, Gary Palmucci,Max Alvarez,Daniel Cahill, Steven C.Smith.
My favourite comment came from Daniel who described the film as “a riot of Venetian blinds”. (which became a trademark of noir thrillers.)
He also talked of the “march of death” in the main title – that shadow figure moving towards the camera on crutches. Ever advancing and ever mysterious until you see the relevance during the film.
Steven Smith explained how it was thought the novels of James M. Cain were unfilmable due to the production code – MGM had the rights to Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice “ for some years before it was filmed.
It was interesting to hear that in the novel Edward G. Robinson’s ‘Barton Keyes’ was a minor character and Keyes and Walter Neff are not close – whereas in the film, it is like a father/son relationship.
The reversal of roles at the end – Keyes never had a match until the moment when Walter needed one.
And in the steamy novel, ‘Phyllis Dietrichson’ is a serial killer! She has killed eight people.
Also fascinating to hear the original final scene ( not used) in the script read out – after the shot of the death house, Keyes walks out , still unable to find a light for his cigar.
The studio was a little nervous about Barbara’s blonde wig, but Wilder said the character was cheap and said ,”I wanted her to look as sleazy as possible.”
The wig almost became a character!
Steven Smith discussed the collaboration of Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Despite the fact they were very different people, they fused as writers. Wilder admired lines by Chandler , like, “I never thought that murder could smell like honeysuckle.”
And finally, an interesting piece of information about the shop Phyllis and Neff meet at. The outside is shown as ‘JERRY’S MARKET ‘ which was on Melrose Avenue , Los Angeles – opposite the Paramount studios. The grocery store’s interior was re-created on the Paramount sound stage.
Unfortunately, Jerry’s Market is no more. Can you imagine if it had survived, we’d all want to visit!
This was Billy Wilder’s third film as a director. His first was the comedy THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, his second a war action story, FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO, and after “Double Indemnity “, his follow-up was the story of an alcoholic, THE LOST WEEKEND. The talent was obvious.
Thanks again to everyone at the New Plaza. I wasn’t able to watch the webinar live so couldn’t take part in the Q&A at the end. Just glad it was recorded.